Dow, S&P 500 barely budge from their record high closes

U.S. financial markets pulled back slightly from their most recent record highs Wednesday, ending lower for the first time this week.

The Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500 index mostly hovered slightly below the all-time high closes set a day earlier.

Investors sifted through a batch of favorable corporate earnings as they waited for the Federal Reserve to publish the minutes from its late-October policy meeting.

Traders hoped to glean fresh insight into when the central bank will raise a benchmark interest rate that affects many consumer and business loans.

In the end, the deeper look at the Fed’s deliberation didn’t sway trading meaningfully.

All told, the S&P 500 index slipped 3.08 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,048.72.

The Dow fell 2.09 points, or 0.01 percent, to 17,685.73.

The Nasdaq composite shed 26.73 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,675.71.

Electronic trading systems will undergo routine testing

U.S. stock exchanges will have to keep a closer eye on their electronic trading systems under rules adopted by federal regulators.

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 5-0 Wednesday to require routine testing of exchanges’ trading systems. The exchanges also will be required to notify the SEC about problems, including any systems that are compromised by hacking. Any problems must be quickly corrected.

The SEC action follows a series of technical disruptions in recent years – notably the “flash crash” of May 2010 – that regulators say shook investors’ confidence in the markets.

The rules take effect in mid-January. They will replace a 20-year-old voluntary program for U.S. exchanges, which include the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and a host of competing electronic marketplaces.

VW recalling Jettas, Beetles to avert potential problem

Volkswagen is recalling 442,000 Jettas and Beetles to fix a problem that can cause rear suspension failure if the cars aren’t fixed properly after a crash.

The recall covers 2011 through 2013 Jettas and 2012 through 2013 Beetles.

VW says in documents posted by U.S. safety regulators on Wednesday that if rear trailing arms are damaged in a crash and not repaired correctly, they can fracture suddenly. That can cause loss of control and possibly a crash. Trailing arms connect the axle to the frame.

The company says there have been no crashes or injuries in the U.S., but there were reports of fractured trailing arms mainly in Asian countries.

Dealers will inspect trailing arms for damage and install sheet metal to help prevent a loss of vehicle control.

The sheet metal will be installed at no cost to customers, but customers will have to pay for repairs if their suspension was damaged, VW said.

Volatile apartment sector drives home starts lower

Construction of new homes fell slightly in October after a big surge in the previous month, but the weakness was largely driven by the volatile apartment sector.

Builders started construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.009 million last month, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. That was a drop of 2.8 percent from September when construction had jumped 7.8 percent to 1.038 million.

The weakness stemmed from a 15.4 percent plunge in apartment construction, a category that tends to have big swings from month to month. Construction of single-family homes was up 4.2 percent, the third gain in the past four months.

– From news service reports